Whitworth matched fifth-ranked Linfield touchdown for touchdown, but four missed extra points was the difference in the visiting Wildcats' 42-38 win over the Pirates in a Northwest Conference football game on Saturday afternoon at the Pine Bowl.
Both quarterbacks threw for five touchdown passes and each team had six scores and gained more than 400 yards in the shootout.
Linfield improved to 8-0 overall and 5-0 in the NWC, clinching at least a tie for its third straight league championship. The Pirates fell to 3-6, 2-3.
Whitworth jumped ahead first on a five-yard pass from Bryan Peterson to Austin Ehlo following a fumbled punt at the Linfield 20 yard line, the first of three touchdown connections between the two on the day. But the extra point was blocked.
The Wildcats answered with Josh Hill's five-yard run and went up 7-6.
But the rest of the first half belong to the upstart Pirates, who went into halftime with a 25-14 lead. Peterson threw a six yard touchdown to tight end Kasey Lambert for a 12-7 Whitworth lead. Then he connected with Ehlo for a 39-yard touchdown. A converted extra point gave the Pirates a 19-7 advantage.
With less than five minutes gone in the second quarter Whitworth had already scored more points against Linfield's defense in a single game than any other Wildcat opponent had all season.
Linfield got within 19-14 on a three-yard scoring pass from Mickey Inns to Jacob Priester, but the Pirates responded again, scoring on a 23-yard pass from Peterson to Ehlo with only 14 seconds to play in the first half. Another blocked PAT meant the Pirates took a 25-14 lead into the break.
The first half stats showed that Whitworth had outplayed the Wildcats. The Pirates had a 209-187 edge in total yards and led the turnover margin 2-0.
But Linfield took little time asserting itself in the third quarter. Inns threw a 39-yard scoring pass to Deidre Wiersma on the 'Cats first possession, then hit Buddy Saxon for an eight-yard score later in the third quarter, giving the Wildcats a 28-25 lead.
Linfield stretched the advantage in the fourth with two more touchdowns. The first was Priester's second TD reception, this time from three yards away, and the second was a seven yard pass to running back Stephen Nasca with 9:43 to play in the game.
Leading 42-25, the Wildcats had a chance to put the game away. But Paul Miller intercepted Inns at the Whitworth six yard line and Pirate running back Ronnie Thomas began to break loose. After Whitworth punted, another Wildcat fumble gave Whitworth the ball at Linfield's 33 yard line. Five plays later Peterson threaded the ball through two Linfield defenders into the hands of Kekoa Turbeville for a 20-yard score. A converted extra point pulled Whitworth within 42-32.
After the Pirates forced the Wildcats to punt, Thomas broke free on a 78-yard touchdown run, the longest allowed by Linfield this season. But for the third time in the game the PAT was blocked. With 3:24 to play Whitworth was within 42-38.
The Pirates elected to kick deep. With just under two minutes to play, Inns completed an 11 yard pass to Buddy Saxon to convert a first down. Linfield was then able to run out the clock.
Peterson completed 23 of 42 passes for 274 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. He was sacked five times for losses of 32 yards. Ehlo caught seven passes for 88 yards and three touchdowns. Jake DeGooyer added six catches for 76 yards. Thomas ran for 156 yards on 14 carries. He ran for 129 yards in the fourth quarter.
Whitworth finished with 422 total yards - 274 passing and 148 rushing.
For Linfield Inns completed 23 of 39 passes for 344 yards with five touchdowns and one interception. Josh Hill caught four passes for 65 yards, while Lucas Jepsen had four catches for 57 yards. Priester led the team with the two short touchdown catches. Hill rushed for 87 yards on 20 carries. Nasca carried four times for 32 yards.
Linfield totaled 455 yards with 344 coming through the air and 111 on the ground.
Miller led the Whitworth defense with nine tackles to go with his interception. Fernando Noriega came up with two fumble recoveries and Aaron Cochran had a ten yard sack for the Pirates. Jonathan Allen had seven solo tackles and forced a fumble. Cailen Thomason broke up three passes.
Dominique Forrest had nine tackles for the Wildcat defense. Tyler Steele added eight tackles and was in on four tackles for loss. Michael MacClanathan was in on three sacks for 15 yards.
Whitworth will finish its season next week at Puget Sound. Linfield hosts Lewis & Clark (7-1, 4-1) in a game that will ultimately determine the NWC championship.